My niece joined the family on July 12th, 2010. This special young lady's mother is my younger sister, which in classic Chinese culture makes me her Jiu Jiu (舅舅) -- thus the title of this blog. Here I intend to semi-regularly post reflections, thoughts, stories, and assorted whathaveyous pertaining to our trip to China, adoption in general, and (mostly) watching my niece grow up. Since the web is a very public place, I will attempt to maintain my family's privacy while telling the story... but I invite you to follow the blog and come along for the adventure!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Still on a Roller Coaster (with Some Backstory)

Whoops! Time flies when you're having fun... not to mention when you're reeeally sleep-deprived (I got in the door from taking the last eclipse photo at 4:00am and then started to upload the files, update the blog, check my email... didn't even get into bed until after the sun was up)... <yawn>  Since we don't celebrate Christmas, A went to work today (even though it's a paid holiday) to free up another manager so they could stay at home with their family. However, since the Pipsqueak's daycare staff does celebrate Xmas, Mom & Dad had her all day today. Somewhere around 1:00pm I got a call from Mom asking if maybe I could please come over and distract the little one so she & Dad could catch their breath... I could have some good coffee, she'd feed me, I didn't have to stay long... just please...?!?  (It's actually a badly kept secret that, unless I have something really important & time-sensitive on my schedule, it doesn't take any real bribery to get me to spend time with my niece... but a little bribery is always appreciated!)  I was over there for just a couple of hours, and got there just a few minutes before Mom returned from a walk with the Pipsqueak, but from the time I picked her up out of the stroller to the time when all of a sudden Grandma's arms seemed like the place to be about 30 minutes later, I had a (squirmy noisy drool-y) little girl in my arms. We were both happy about it, got to watch the squirrels on the deck out back (at least 'til the Pipsqueak decided it was fun to drum on the glass), got to read Elmo's Book of Colors (at least 'til the noises in the kitchen sounded more interesting), got to play with the magnets on the fridge (at least 'til Uncle B's arms began cramping)... all kinds of Good Stuff. :-)  We all met up later in the evening for a very nice Xmas dinner with A's next-door neighbor (and good friend), where the Pipsqueak charmed the two teenage daughters of another guest and managed to finish off a  good-sized brownie (along with a statistically significant percentage of Mommy's dinner) all by herself.

Also, since A has weekend manager duty on Saturday... I've been told to expect another phone call from Mom. ;-)

However, since I had intended to at least catch up to what happened between The Call and our China trip back in June/July, I'm going to jump back in time a bit and continue with some of the backstory... and review some of the insane emotional roller coaster we were all on at the time.

There was actually a lot going on aside from the adoption shifting into "do it yesterday" mode.  One set of decisions revolved around a business venture all four of us had started a little over a year earlier, AmeriChin Beauty, with our primary intended clientele being fellow adoptive families (you can check out our online catalog at HERE). Sales had been horrifically slow -- mainly due to indecision about how & where to advertise -- so we had finally set up a sales table at one of the adoption events... and went home with a big ol' goose egg in sales because we had misjudged the type of things the community was looking to buy. (A couple of the older kids and one of the parents "got it" with our name & tagline, but nobody bought anything.) Seems that items actually from China were what everyone wanted, not tees and such with a slightly different perspective. That experience, along with the sudden immediacy of the adoption, really got us thinking about the investment of time and (limited) funds... and the modification of our business model remains an ongoing, occasionally difficult but always time-consuming process.

Another unexpected complication was... an adoption. Yep, another adoption in the family... but this one was a little different. One pretty day, Mom had left the back door open except for the screen to take advantage of the breeze when she heard meowing. She looked down and there was a little black & grey kitten, looking right back up at her and meowing. This family being what it is, she asked the little feline if it wanted to come in, opened the door, and proceeded to feed it. She & Dad then drove around the neighborhood but didn't find any signs about a lost cat so they took it to the local shelter, where they were told he (after a quick check) could only be kept for a limited time and they couldn't guarantee he wouldn't end up being euthanized unless there was a "for sure" adoption... so they signed the papers and left the kitten in quarantine. He did indeed get sick ("Oh, a lot of our cats get sick, don't worry about it!") but then got better, but no one ever came forward... So a while later Tigger (named for his stripes & bouncy behavior) formally joined the family.

We still laugh about how he knew to go to the biggest household of suckers on the block, and we're still not exactly sure who adopted who... but Tigger's turned out to be the Pipsqueak's good buddy so all's well that ends well.

Oh, and that blue tape on the floor behind Tigger? Well, while all this was going on, most of Mom & Dad's kitchen... and the bay window in the dining room... and the bay window in the living room... and the rear wall of the "library" room... were all being rebuilt, courtesy of ice dam/water leak damage from the previous winter.  Not exactly conducive to peace of mind, or the kind of clear thinking one needs to conduct final preparations for an adoption, or even just to sleep at night... Let's just say that it was interesting but was not fun and leave it at that. (Did I mention that there are still a couple of details being handled now, almost a full year after the damage occurred....?)

And then, after we had all the travel arrangements made, on top of the business-related stress, the contractor/construction stress, and getting used to a rambunctious new four-footed family member, we also had some real heartbreak.

Years ago, A and I had conspired to get a couple of cats into the house just before Mom & Dad returned from an overseas posting. (Yes, there's a definite pattern to our conspiracies.) It was a case of A knowing that she'd have to discuss it with our folks at length once they got back... Or she could present them with a fait accompli and let the kitties' cuteness do the rest, so of course she chose the latter approach. The result was Midnight and Popcorn becoming family members. Then we lost Popcorn to a congenital heart defect... and after some time passed, A adopted Geneva to keep Middie company. Then we lost Geneva to the same #&@$! congenital defect. More time passed, and poor Middie showed signs of going a tad crazy because she'd never been left alone all day... so eventually A adopted Dulce, and (after a few "interesting" moments) the two foster sisters became good friends.  All along, Midnight was pretty much A's baby, staying close nearby and nuzzling & cuddling regularly.  Fast-forward to May/June of this year, and everyone began to quietly worry about Middie showing signs of not feeling well. She kept going downhill, and at one point A even said she was really afraid she'd be picking up her long-awaited daughter in China only to have her beloved cat die while she was there. It was only a couple of weeks before we left that poor Middie began to get much worse, and after a tough fight (including 3 days in a bariatric chamber -- just because you have 4 feet doesn't mean you're not a family member!) we finally lost Midnight just a week before we left for China. I've included one of my last photos of my furry "little sister" below, showing her nuzzling headfirst into A's arms just a day or two before going to the animal ER.

So there we were, our packing lists complete, our shopping almost done, tickets and visas and paperwork all finally in full readiness, and with all the exhaustion we found ourselves mourning a longtime friend. It was a poignant counterpoint to the happy anticipation of finally (finally!) being able to meet the little girl we'd been waiting to see for almost five years.

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